Yo ho, all ye salty sea dogs and scalawags. Just a quick reminder on this annual Talk Like a Pirate Day that the Internal Revenue Service wants its cut of your ill-gotten gains, be they pillaged pirate loot or otherwise criminally obtained. Click image to watch the ESPN ad. I know Andrew McCutchen is no longer a Pittsburgh Pirate, but the daring attack the former MLB National League MVP and his crew of sports team buccaneer mascots launched on an ESPN meeting back in 2013 still is one of my favorite television ads. And while Cutch, who's now plays for... Read more →


One of my previous jobs was an office manager. I was in charge of reviewing expenditures before they were approved and then making sure they were paid once the services were provided. Every month or so I'd get an invoice for some office supplies. Every month I threw it in the trash. It was from a scam company that tried to sneak the paperwork into my to-pay file. Occasionally, people representing these "suppliers" would call about the allegedly overdue bill. When I told them I had forwarded the bill to our legal department, they quickly hung up. That was 30... Read more →


Some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees in Washington, D.C., are being offered financial incentives to move to the agency's Grand Junction, Colorado, office, which is near the scenic McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area pictured above. (BLM photo) Despite objections from workers and some members of Congress, the Interior Department is moving forward with its plan to relocate about 250 Washington-based Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees to western states. The Trump Administration says the move ultimately will save taxpayer dollars, but it's willing to spend some federal cash in the short-term to win over employees who have concerns about... Read more →


U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) during a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing. (Screenshot from Wyden's YouTube channel) Most of the tax the rich action has been coming from Democrats who want to move into the White House in 2021. Now a top Senate tax committee member has joined the call to collect more from wealthier Americans. And he has specific plans for the new revenue. Sen. Ron Wyden's proposal would tax ordinary income and capital gains at the same rates. Currently, capital gains generally are taxed at lower rates, ranging from zero for some lower-income investors to 15 percent for... Read more →


Darth Maul apparently — spoiler alert — was killed in The Phantom Menace, but later showed up in subsequent Star Wars productions. His persistence is akin phantom investment transactions that are created simply to lower multinational companies' tax bills. (Photo via Lucasfilm) What I consider the real Star Wars trilogy came out when I was in college. That's why I've not bothered to see any of the subsequent sequel/prequel movies. But they came to mind last week when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the University of Copenhagen released a new study on the growth of so-called phantom capital and... Read more →


via GIPHY If you've been following the pack of politicians seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, you know that ways to tax the wealthy is a common thread. But there are as many proposals to do that as there are White House wannabes, although Elizabeth Warren is leading in suggested changes to get more tax money from the rich. There's the general wealth tax, corporate book profits tax, new Social Security wage tax, new Social Security net investment income tax (NIIT), new estate tax and every Democrats' favorite, repealing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) lower rates for higher... Read more →


It's Friday the 13th and a full moon will rise late tonight. Werewolves and Friday the 13th. Scared yet? Take a breath. Depending on where you live, and how superstitious you are, tonight might not be so bad. The Farmers' Almanac says folks in the Pacific, Central and Mountain time zones will get to gaze on the full moon before midnight this Friday, Sept. 13. However, if you live in the Eastern time zone, the moon won't be full until 12:33 a.m. on the less spooky Saturday, Sept. 14. Micro Harvest moon: Plus, it won't be a very big full... Read more →


If you read last week's September tax moves post (thanks), you might remember that one of the four suggested actions was to pay your estimated taxes. Not to be a nag, or a reminder as I insist to the hubby, but I'm putting that tax task out there again today. The third installment for the 2019 tax year is due Sept. 16. Yes, that's a day later than normal, but the usual 9/15 due date falls on Sunday. So you get an extra day, next Monday, to either snail mail your 1040-ES voucher and check or money order to the... Read more →


What's worse than losing your home to a disaster? Having to pay taxes on the destroyed property. That's what a Southwestern Pennsylvania family is dealing with now. After losing their home and all its contents to a fire last November, Rich and Catherine Hooks recently learned that they are responsible for the 2019 property taxes due on their no long in existence Westmoreland County home. "The taxes should be lower because the house isn't there," Mrs. Hooks told TribLive.com. But the county tax assessor didn't know that. So the prior tax valuation stood. When a significant change occurs on a... Read more →


Click image to watch Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's touting of Tax Reform 2.0 in 2020 via The Hill. There's not much hope that a divided Congress will get much done on taxes in the remaining months of 2019, but at least one Trump Administration official is more optimistic about 2020. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that the White House would consider proposing a new package of tax cuts next year. Will Tax Reform 2.0 actually happen in 2020? Is this just a political ploy leading into what could be a difficult re-election campaign? Will tax cuts become the new... Read more →


Congress is back. But will Representatives and Senators get any more done these last few months of 2019 than they did earlier? Probably not. While this 116th Congress hasn't been a total bust — 56 bills have passed this year — it's not been a particularly productive one. None of these bills was major legislation. In fact, the enacted laws are 16 fewer than the lowest number passed in a single calendar year over the last 30 years. Plus, most of them have been commemorative measures or extensions of prior laws, not bills that change Americans' lives in any substantive... Read more →


Al "Scarface" Capone at his sentencing for tax evasion. Back in the Prohibition Era, federal agents — notably those from the Internal Revenue Service — took down the notorious gangster. The tax agency's Criminal Investigation agents are celebrating their 100th birthday this year. (Photo courtesy All That's Interesting: 25 Al Capone Facts) The United States' tax system is based on the premise that all income is taxable, including illegally earned income. Our tax system also relies on the voluntary reporting of that income, including ill-gotten gains. But human nature being what it is, that doesn't always happen, even with legally... Read more →


Some of the devastation facing Bahamians following Hurricane Dorian's direct hit on the islands. (Photo courtesy Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance via Facebook) Hurricane Dorian is still traveling up North America's eastern coastline, but it did its most damage on Sept. 2 when it made landfall as a Category 5 storm in The Bahamas. More than 40 people were killed and that toll is expected to rise. At least 70,000 people are homeless. Early estimates of property damage are around $7 billion in losses. Concerned people are looking for ways to help the residents of the island nation. This... Read more →


As I was making my usual trip between my mother's and home, I noticed a wide range of prices at gas stations along the way. Heck, I noticed some wide differentials in fueling stops less than a mile apart in my area of Austin. The one consistent factor was that they all were down from earlier this summer. That's not a surprise. Now that the long Labor Day weekend is over, the summer vacation season where most folks still load the family in a car and hit the road is done, too. So what exactly affects the price of gasoline?... Read more →


Russia's Tsar Peter I, popularly known as Peer the Great, was a believer in using tax policy to shape people's behavior. He tried to do that with a beard tax. (Image via Wikimedia Commons) Every time we're hit with a new tax, we immediately decry how damaging it will be to us personally. But it's highly unlikely that any of today's Internal Revenue Code assessments will ever hit as close to home as a Russian tax enacted on this day (or thereabouts) 321 years ago. Sept. 5, 1678, is the day according to most accounts that Tsar Peter I, better... Read more →


Andrew Luck announces his retirement from the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. The main reason the young quarterback quit the game was injuries. A bonus to his departure: no more jock tax calculations. The National Football League's 2019 season kicks off tomorrow night, but Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck won't be on the field. The 29-year-old stunned the sports world on Aug. 24 when he confirmed rumors that he was retiring from the sport. Colts owner Jim Irsay estimated that Luck could be giving up as much as $450 million in future salary. Luck, however, obviously thinks he has made enough money... Read more →


September usually is a welcome month. The summer's hot temperatures finally moderate as the official start of fall nears. Parents and children get their routines back as school is in session. Then there's the reason why usually comes into play as far as September's arrival. It's traditionally the most active month of the annual hurricane season. Nobody wants to see that. We'll have to wait a few more weeks to see if that holds for 2019, but September's start is ominous. Hurricane Dorian, which already has smashed all sorts of intensity records, is stalking Florida as I type. If forecasts... Read more →